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Michelle Obama rallies nurses to help treat veterans

Wednesday April 11, 2012
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First lady Michelle Obama spoke Wednesday afternoon about the importance of preparing nurses to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and post-combat depression.

Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, attended an event at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to announce a commitment from nurses to enhance the care and treatment of military service members and veterans. The announcement was part of the one-year anniversary of Obamaís Joining Forces campaign to help Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families.

As part of the campaign, more than 500 nursing schools and 150 state and national nursing organizations have pledged to focus on training nurses in the treatment of war wounds that may not be visible. Collectively, the effort is projected to reach more than 3 million nurses in every healthcare setting and community in America by 2015, according to a White House news release.

"Whether weíre in a hospital, a doctorís office or a community health center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door," Obama said in a statement. "Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of Americaís healthcare system.

"Thatís why Jill and I knew we could turn to Americaís nurses and nursing students to help our veterans and military families get the world-class care that theyíve earned."

As part of their pledge, participating organizations and schools will ensure nurses are trained in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans and their families; disseminate the most up-to-date information relating to TBI and psychological health conditions; grow the body of knowledge, leading to improvements in healthcare and wellness for service members, veterans and their families; and lead and advance the community of nurses, institutions and healthcare providers dedicated to improving the health of service members, veterans and their families.

Signing up

Participating organizations include the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Colleges of Nursing, American Organization of Nurse Executives, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, Association of Rehabilitation Nurses, Association for Womenís Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, National League for Nursing and the federal nurses of the military and public health services and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Nurses are at the center of providing life-saving care in communities across the country — and their reach is particularly important because our veterans donít always seek care through the [Department of Veterans Affairs] system," Biden said. "This commitment is essential to ensuring our returning service men and women receive the care they deserve."

On a new webpage (www.anajoiningforces.org/) devoted to the campaign, the ANA said only 50% of returning military members receive care in a military or VA system. The rest require care in their home communities, and "because nursing is the largest healthcare workforce and is present in every community, we care for our military service members, veterans and their families in every professional setting. We also know the wounded warriors as family, friends, neighbors and colleagues."

Individual nurses can do their part by ensuring they are "equipped to recognize, know about and make appropriate referrals to quality programs and services," the ANA said. "It is critical that we stand together to demonstrate leadership on this issue to improve the military service membersí quality of care."

Penny Kaye Jensen, APRN, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, president of AANP, said: "NPs have and continue to play a vital role in addressing the healthcare needs of veterans and active service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression and other serious combat-related issues. It is our goal to remain in step with this demand, in touch with our patients and informed regarding the diverse spectrum of health-related concerns they may face."

The AANP plans to advance a comprehensive array of veteran-specific programs and activities, including reaching out to members through the creation of a unique Joining Forces section of its website; publishing a special edition on veteransí health in the AANP peer-reviewed journal; creating continuing education programs focusing on issues facing veterans and military families; and planning workshops at the organizationís upcoming national conference to promote the wellness of veterans and caregivers.

Going to school

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing created a new web page (www.aacn.nche.edu/joining-forces) that includes the nursing school pledge and a list of participating schools. The association expressed its commitment to work with the nationís nursing schools to promote curriculum integration, faculty development and student clinical experiences focused on enhancing the care of veterans, service members and their families.

"Building on its long history of raising curriculum standards and enhancing quality in nursing care, AACN will identify and showcase best practices in nursing education and disseminate information on curricular models to all schools of nursing through webinars, conference programming and an online collaboration community," the association wrote in a news release.

During National Nurses Week (May 6-12), AACN will offer a series of four free webinars reflecting the theme of "Educating Future Nurses to Care for Veterans."

"AACN is committed to galvanizing nursing schools throughout the nation to take action and support the Joining Forces campaign," AACN President Jane Kirschling, RN, DNS, FAAN, said in the news release. "Together with the larger healthcare community, nurse educators are encouraged to take decisive steps toward raising the quality of care available to our nationís military and veterans in their important work to prepare future generations of nurses."

Previously, 135 medical schools signed on to the effort.


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